Dallas Museum of Art to Present Focus Installation of African Art

The Dallas Museum of Art has unveiled details about an upcoming exhibition that will celebrate African textile designs.

Opening Aug. 31, Wearable Raffia brings together raffia garments from West and Central Africa and the island of Madagascar to reveal the ingenuity of designers across the continent.

“The DMA has one of the most significant collections of African Art in the nation, and it is an incredible resource from which to develop exhibitions and programs that offer new perspectives and insights to our audiences,” said Dr. Agustín Arteaga, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott director. “Often we think of objects inside a vitrine as precious, which they are, but these pieces were once used by people like us. The objects in this exhibition tell their story, and when we share it, they come alive.”

The exhibition is on view until next summer and can be seen for free in the Museum’s third floor Textile Gallery.

Did You Know?
  • In Africa, before the introduction of imported cotton fabric, tree bark and leaves were the traditional sources of fibers used to make cloth.
  • Raffia, the material harvested from raffia palm leaves, was once one of the most common textile fibers on the continent. Exploring the ingenious use of this vital material, Wearable Raffia highlights 15 works of art from several groups across four African countries, including the Bamileke (Cameroon), Dida (Côte d’Ivoire), Kuba, Suku, and Teke (Democratic Republic of the Congo), and the Merina (Madagascar).
  • Raffia clothing, shoes, and accessories are currently in vogue in the United States and Europe. Since the early 2000s, such Western fashion houses as The House of Dior, Paris, have commissioned raffia fabrics from weavers in Madagascar.
  • In Africa, weavers have been transforming raw raffia into clothing and headwear for centuries,” said Dr. Walker. “This visually appealing exhibition, which includes a ‘please touch’ section, reveals the meticulous craftsmanship, imaginative designs, and ways to wear raffia cloth in Africa.”

Encompassing skirts, a shawl, and headwear, the raffia textiles in this exhibition demonstrate two primary weaving techniques: The Teke, Kuba, and Merina created textiles using looms, while the Dida interlaced raffia threads by hand.

The exhibition, as well as many of its accompanying public programs, features touchable displays that offer another avenue for visitors to learn about raffia weaving.

Upcoming Events

Make & Take: Wearable Raffia (free)
5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 29
A guided art-making series for adults. Make small accessories from raffia to see the versatile nature of this material. Use wrapping and folding techniques to make flowers and tassels to affix on a bag or just as decoration. No previous experience necessary and all materials are provided.

Gallery Talk: Wearable Raffia (free)
12:15 p.m. Date TBD
Artist Lesli Robertson will speak about a new installation of raffia garments and textiles drawn from the DMA’s collection.

Bianca R. Montes

Bianca Montes is an award-winning journalist and former Managing Editor of Preston Hollow People. She currently serves as a Senior Editor with D Magazine's D CEO publication. You can reach her by email at [email protected] or follow her on Instagram @Bianca_TBD. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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